July 24, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria aims to raise money to boost police auxiliary

ELYRIA — A new city initiative is taking shape to increase Elyria’s auxiliary police force by 24 volunteers and garner community sponsorship to offset the $43,920 needed to outfit the new recruits.

Auxiliary police officers are the badge-wearing civilians who direct traffic at accident scenes, walk through festival crowds in hopes of keeping the peace and serve as the eyes and ears of the Police Department.

In Elyria, there are 16 such officers, but a new initiative the city is launching called “Recruit the Blue” aims to increase that number to 40.

Mayor Holly Brinda said the hope is to use the beefed up auxiliary force to aid the Police Department — it will provide assistance to, but not replace, sworn officers in the city.

While the Police Department has 82 officers, Police Chief Duane Whitely has long championed for more officers on the street. Brinda said “Recruit the Blue” campaign will not allow for sworn officers to be hired.

“This does nothing to what the size of the department is now and what it will be in the future,” Brinda said. “This is just extra eyes and ears for the Police Department, regardless of the number of officers.”

Whitely said auxiliary officers play a big part in cutting crime in the community.

“They are definitely deterrents to crime, free our officers up to concentrate on priority issues, and help us identify potential problems before they get out of hand,” he said.

Auxiliary officers don’t carry guns but can carry batons, pepper spray and handcuffs. They cannot arrest people but can be authorized by police officers to handcuff when necessary.

The biggest obstacle to increasing the volunteer force is money. Brinda said it costs approximately $1,800 to purchase auxiliary officer uniforms and equipment, which is not provided by the Police Department. Volunteers are asked to pay for that themselves in addition to a monthly time commitment.

“What we have found in talking with both existing auxiliary officers and some citizens who aspire to join their ranks is that the cost they must personally bear to outfit and equip themselves is a significant financial barrier that many cannot afford to absorb themselves,” she said. “That’s why we are taking the unusual step in reaching out to the community to help us bear the cost in what we think will be a win-win situation for everyone.”

Brinda said the goal is to raise $43,920 in sponsorships to support 24 additional auxiliary police officers. The money will go toward the purchase of officer shirts ($40), pants ($50), body protection vests ($800), duty belts ($200), expandable batons ($75), handcuffs ($40), pepper spray canisters ($20), radio/case/batteries ($530) and flashlights ($75).

Plans are in the works to hold a Blue Jeans Crime Stopper Ball in hopes of raising a portion of the $43,920 total, but Brinda said sponsorships are still needed. Sponsorships range from $25 to $1,800.

“To know we have dedicated men and women out there who are looking for meaningful, challenging volunteer opportunities to help keep Elyria safe and the only thing holding then back is the cost of a uniform and equipment is a barrier we have an obligation to remove,” she said.

Whitely said the 16 auxiliary officers have contributed greatly to the city. Collectively, they worked 2,900 community service hours last year.

“Some are younger people who aspire to be police officers, while others are older and established or retired and have always had an interest in police work and want to make a difference in the community,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.